A 1950's photo of a Navy VC 35 Squadron AD-5N Skyraider.

Summary: The AD-5N was the Douglas Skyraider's 4-seat night attack version with radar countermeasures. Up front were the pilot and co-pilot (or observer), and the radar operator and another observer were in the rear compartment.

At 12:30 pm, two AD-5N Skyraiders departed NAS North Island in San Diego for a low-level navigational flight. Both aircraft were assigned to the VC-35 Squadron and were flying a special weapons mission to train pilots in navigating at low levels where radar detection is kept to a minimum. The route to be followed on this flight was a new one and had not been previously flown by pilots under training. The minimum altitudes flown were 200 feet above flat terrain and 400 feet above mountainous areas. The route took the aircraft into Arizona and southeastern California. Once the planes flew over Indio, they set a course to fly southwest over the Santa Rosa Mountains and back to San Diego. Lt. Richard Haffner, pilot of 132525, also known as squadron aircraft "NR-95", flew up a mountain canyon with Lt. Brown flying "NR-25" up an adjacent canyon. Just as Lt. Brown cleared the ridge, his external tanks went dry so he switched to his main tanks. The engine stopped momentarily until suction was gained in the internal tanks. As Lt. Brown scanned the air for NR-95, he saw smoke and flames coming from the mountainside.

The exact cause of the crash is unknown, but Navy investigators suspect that as NR-95 was operating on a high power setting to climb out of the canyon, the external tanks ran dry. As the engine sputtered, Lt. Haffner may have attempted to turn out of the canyon while switching to his main tanks. The restarting of the engine at full throttle coupled with a steep banking turn at near stall speed would have caused an uncontrollable torque roll.

Due to the remoteness of the crash, it took investigators nine days to reach the crash site. The crew of NR-95 was LTJG Richard Haffner, pilot; Aviation Machinist Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald Leeper, Observer; and Aviation Electronics Petty Officer 3rd Class John Cooper, Radar Operator.

The crash is in the Santa Rosa Mountains, and the hike is over 15 miles round trip with much of it off-trail.


A 1956 photo showing the massive, 18 cylinder fire-blackened Wright R-3350 engine.  The same view, 55 years later shows rejuvenated shrubs and cactus surrounding the engine. The prop hub assembly.  the engine is nearly 5 feet in diameter and over 6 feet in length.

 

       
The wing center section.  Another view, facing the front of the wing. the fuselage would have been attached in the center. The engine and cockpit area. One wheel is still tucked into the well. 

 

       
The other gear has broken loose.  Standing next to one of the massive propeller blades. The bottom side of a wing with bomb/ rocket pylons. A data plate identifying the plane as AD-5N, Bureau Number 132525

 

       
Instructions affixed to the cockpit canopy frame.  The cockpit heater controls.  The canopy rear view mirror.  An oxygen flow regulator. 


       
A Douglas Aircraft rudder pedal.  The control console with throttle, blower control, RPM control and fuel selector switch. Pilot's seat with armor plate.  Data plate on the side of the seat.


       
The canopy frame for the radar observer in the rear compartment. Canopy frame and cabin light. The photo shows the cabin light and frame in an AD-5N. AD-5N data plate.


       
Original 1956 photo of the tail section taken after the crash.  55 years later the tail is faded and weathered. Note the tail hook for carrier landings. Aircraft identification stenciled on the tail section.  The remnants of the "NR" stenciled on the vertical assembly. 


       
'NAVY VC35' on the tail.  Looking inside the tail. One of the crewmen's home movie camera.  Another view of the camera.

       
A radio carriage with numerous avionics.  Avionics. Dial from the instrument panel. High Voltage box.


       
The engine cowl identifying the plane as "NR-95"  AA section of aircraft skin from below the canopy with a step affixed to it.  Canopy cleaning instructions. Stars painted onto the wingtip.

       
Another propeller blade.  A piece of debris that pierced the blade upon impact. Avionics and radar equipment inside the fuselage. Avionics box. 

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